MSA move bill’s death brings sigh of relief to area

Published 8:35 pm Monday, February 15, 2010

That large blast of air felt across the area Thursday afternoonwas not just the weather front that brought in Friday’srecord-setting snowstorm. Part of it was the sigh of relief acrossSouthwest Mississippi when the Legislature adjourned on deadlineday.

Deadline day was Thursday afternoon for certain general bills andconstitutional amendments, meaning the pending legislation dies ifnot acted upon before the close of business for the day.

A bill to move the Mississippi School of the Arts from Brookhavento the campus of Mississippi University for Women in Columbus wasone of those bills. As the gavel fell Thursday afternoon, so didthe most recent effort by MUW supporters to uproot the prestigiousschool from the historic campus of Whitworth College and take itfor their own.

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This effort to move to Columbus began in 2003 with an editorial inthe Columbus newspaper suggesting the new school would be bettersuited at MUW. For the next three years, MSA battled budget cutsand other efforts by some lawmakers who questioned the value of aspecialty school for the arts in Mississippi.

It was in late 2007, in preparation for the 2008 session, thatserious consideration began to move MSA to Columbus. The idea wasopenly discussed during legislative budget hearings.

In 2009 a strong effort was mounted and the necessary bills writtento move the school from the Brookhaven campus. And of course thisyear that effort was repeated.

Each year since its opening, MSA has struggled and fought on thepolitical stage in Jackson. Back on campus they set aside thepolitics and did what they do best – teach.

Students responded and the accolades of the school soared.Scholarships started pouring in for graduates, and now the value ofthose offers eclipses the annual budget for the entireschool!

One has to wonder how much stronger MSA might be if its fullattention could be placed on the students and off ofpolitics.

While it appears the school has again won a major battle this year,it must be realized that until the 2010 session adjourns for good,the school’s budget future remains on the table. A sleight of handin secret conference committee hearings could bring the issue backon the table.

While unlikely, anything is possible, especially as Mississippifaces extreme budget shortfalls this year.

Brookhaven, Lincoln County and Southwest Mississippi can sleepbetter now, but it might be wise to sleep lightly with an open earpointed to the Capitol. Meanwhile, MSA administrators and teacherscan do what they do best – teach!